How to Protect US Interests Worldwide the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Discusses the Peace Mission in Bosnia, Military Readiness, and US Defense-Budget Problems

The Christian Science Monitor, April 15, 1996 | Go to article overview

How to Protect US Interests Worldwide the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Discusses the Peace Mission in Bosnia, Military Readiness, and US Defense-Budget Problems


Changing global relationships and tightening budgets are reshaping the US armed forces - the world's largest and most widely deployed.. Talking with Monitor editors recently, Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, examined the military's new dimensions.

The US has a two-war strategy for the future, and yet a lot of what has happened since the cold war ended has been little, unexpected duties. How do things like that fit into a two-war strategy?

My sense is that we have it about right when we say that this nation, in order to protect its interests worldwide, has to have the capability to engage two regional tyrants in two very separate parts of the world nearly simultaneously. If we have a capability less than that, what would happen to us? The minute we get involved in a place like Korea, Saddam Hussein could take advantage of that and not only harm his neighbors but our interests in a region. And so I feel very comfortable that for our nation, the one global power, that's the right capability. My one fear is that we may tie this too much to the threat at any given time. I submit to you that even if Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein were to go away tomorrow, we as a nation need to retain that capability to protect our interests in two widely separated areas. Why? First of all because we have a very poor track record of picking where our interests will be threatened next. {Second}, we have a very poor track record of increasing our defenses. So those two things tell you that there is a minimum capability this nation must maintain to advance our interests and protect them. But how do you then deal with those lesser requirements such as a Haiti, a Bosnia? Well, we have always said that if a Haiti or a Bosnia were to occur, and some trouble were to develop on the Korean Peninsula, we would obviously rush to Korea to deal with that. At the same time, we would have to begin to withdraw our forces from Bosnia or some other place in order to be ready should trouble start somewhere else. Whether we withdraw them, actually, at that time from a lesser contingency will depend on what else is ongoing in the world. I think it's quite reasonable to assume that if the United States were required to engage in a major way on the Korean Peninsula, that Europeans would be able to take our place in a place like Bosnia and would be willing to do so. But having said that, I don't wish to signal somehow that there is something imminent to that. But that's how we have always looked at the problem, and we feel very comfortable with that. Is there any way we can convince the Russians of what they don't want to be convinced of: that NATO is an organization that wants to work with them and not an organization that's planning a war against them? I certainly hope so. I think the development that we see in Bosnia now {is very encouraging}, where a Russian brigade is participating together with an American division as part of a NATO operation. It is through arrangements such as this that I think we can be more persuasive than through words. NATO is not against Russia. But NATO is against instability, and against strife, and crises on the European continent. I happen to be absolutely convinced that in the end Russians will understand that it is to their benefit to see stability on their borders. In the end, we cannot build the kind of Europe that we all wish for without Russia's participation. And so I think the alliance will enlarge. But hand in hand with enlargement of the alliance must go a special relationship between the alliance and Russia. You've made strong statements about avoiding so-called "mission creep," particularly with regard to the pursuit of war criminals in Bosnia. Do we have a set policy about what's permissible and what isn't, or is this likely to evolve as the months go by? From the time we wrote the Dayton agreements, the military was participating, not just as observers or advisers, but as actual negotiators and writers of that agreement.

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